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Young people at the heart of United action

The rigorous recent run of home fixtures has outlined the range of the opportunities that Manchester United Foundation provides for its participants on home matchdays

| by Matthew Brown

From walking out alongside Manchester United stars ahead of kick-off, to gracing the Old Trafford turf to take a half-time penalty, the Foundation has provided its young people with a wealth of exciting experiences of late.

The Foundation uses the power and appeal of Manchester United and football to help young people make positive choices in their lives, through a range of life-changing programmes.

Young people are empowered to form part of the whole matchday experience at Old Trafford, being provided with opportunities that inspire, and allow them to see the extent of the possibilities that are available at the Reds' famed home.

A standout recent moment saw our young people’s dreams become reality with the opportunity to take penalties during half-time of the Manchester derby at the Theatre of Dreams, courtesy of club partner DHL.

The Foundation works with over 60 partner schools across the region and some of those pupils had the chance to take a penalty in front of the East Stand, on what was a memorable day in M16 for more reasons than just the result.

One of the deserving youngsters taking part, Sidney, a pupil from one of our partner primary schools, said: “It’s absolutely amazing, it’s the best moment of my life. I’ve always been a United fan so this is just a dream come true.”

Tickets are distributed to the Foundation’s young people for every home fixture at both Old Trafford and Leigh Sports Village, and at the Carabao Cup quarter-final against Charlton Athletic, two groups of young people were invited to discuss the Foundation’s work.

The first ever Foundation Youth Voice Board took place overlooking the pitch in M16 while our Street Reds Youth Voice participants also were invited to Old Trafford – meeting Bryan Robson, among other United legends – to discuss ways to improve the Foundation’s provision in the region.

As well as on the pitch and in the stands, Foundation participants are occasionally given the opportunity to walk out from the tunnel with the Reds as mascots, as was the case in last month’s Carabao Cup tie against Burnley.

Our inspiring young participant Riley, who attends Ability Counts – the Foundation’s PAN-disability football provision – was invited to lead out United for the tie alongside skipper on the night, Bruno Fernandes, as a Christmas gift.

Matt Pilkington, the Foundation’s disability and inclusion co-ordinator, said: “We are grateful that our participants have had the unique opportunity to walk out at Old Trafford as mascots. It is an experience they will never forget and highlights how we are able to inspire our young people through the power of Manchester United.”

The Foundation’s work extends beyond supporting its participants on matchday, having positively impacted more than 20,000 young people through its life-changing programmes during the 2021/22 season.